Amid the velvet hills and craggy peaks of Scotland’s western edge, saints and kings have passed, clans and armies clashed, and poets and rebels have sought refuge. Encounter the untamed Highlands and the Inner Hebrides islands on foot, exploring glittering lakes and waterfalls, fantastic geologic formations, and historic sites that date back more than a thousand years. Climb the forested hills of Loch Lomond and the Trossachs National Park, hike the coasts of the isle of Kerrera, and travel into the Cuillin mountain range for a hike among its jagged peaks. Following in the footsteps of famous native Scots such as John Muir, Sir Walter Scott, Robert Burns, and Bonnie Prince Charlie, learn the rich history and legends of Scotland’s wild western lands.
Arrive in Edinburgh and transfer to our hotel. After time to relax, meet for a mid-afternoon walk along the Royal Mile. Step back in time as we wind our way past sharp church spires, cobbled alleyways, and Holyrood Palace to Holyrood Park. A short hike brings us up the knoll of Arthur’s Seat, where we’ll have outstanding views of the city. Tonight, gather for an orientation and a welcome dinner at the hotel.
Bruntsfield Hotel (D)
Head west after breakfast, stopping for a warm-up hike in Loch Lomond and the Trossachs National Park—Scotland’s first national park, established in 2002. Our hike takes us along part of the famous West Highland Way trail, diverting to a small but prominent peak called Conic Hill. Geologically part of the Highland Boundary Fault, this 1180-foot summit offers outstanding views across the islands of Loch Lomond to the peaks of the ‘Arrochar Alps’ and beyond. Afterwards, continue to the West Highlands and settle into our hotel, enjoying wonderful sea views or taking a walk in the garden. (4 miles hiking, 1150’ elevation gain, 3 hours)
Loch Melfort Hotel (B,L,D)
Directly across from Oban lies the isle of Kerrera. Here, we’ll set off on an intriguing hike through history. Pass Horseshoe Bay, where King Alexander II of Scotland died in 1249 while preparing to drive the Norwegian army out of western Scotland. Explore Gylen Castle, perched dramatically on the cliff’s edge. Built as a stronghold of the MacDougall clan in 1582, the castle was besieged and burned in 1647. Head up into the hills to take in spectacular views of the Island of Mull. Return to Oban by ferry this afternoon, and visit the local whisky distillery for a guided tour. (6-7 miles hiking, 4-5 hours)
Loch Melfort Hotel (B,L,D)
After breakfast, set out on a private catamaran cruise on Loch Craignish and along the coast of Jura. Amid the rich waters and scattered islands, search for nesting sea eagles, minke whales, basking sharks, dolphins, and seals, as well as a wide variety of seabirds. Witness the swirling surf of the Corryvreckan Whirlpool, the third largest whirlpool in the world, and enjoy lunch back on land. Take a walk in Kilmartin Glen, home to hundreds of ancient monuments, and stop at the ruins of Dun Add, an Iron Age fort considered by some to be the birthplace of Scotland. (5 miles hiking, 2-3 hours)
Loch Melfort Hotel (B,L,D)
Head north, tracing the eastern shores of Loch Linnhe into a mystical landscape of sweeping slopes and rocky peaks. Pass the western end of Glen Coe, scene of a historic massacre of the MacDonald clan in 1692, before continuing to Fort William. Join a conservationist and John Muir historian for a guided hike beneath the hulking summit of Ben Nevis, the highest peak in the United Kingdom. Later this afternoon, cross over the sea to Skye, including a stop for a visit to the iconic Eilean Donan Castle. (3-4 miles hiking, 3 hours)
Cuillin Hills Hotel (B,L,D)
The spectacular landscapes of northern Skye rise in soft, grassy slopes that drop off in sheer cliffs, and rock formations that spike and curl. Set off on foot into this magical place, rich with legend and intrigue. Hike beneath the unusual rock formations of the Quiraing and learn a fascinating story of geologic turmoil. (6-7 miles hiking, 3-4 hours)
Cuillin Hills Hotel (B,L)
Hike through a wild glen on a journey through Skye’s most famous mountain ranges, from the Red Cuillin to the Black Cuillin. Start on the coast at Loch Ainort, where we bear south and hike into the wild. Surrounded by red granite peaks, we descend towards the coast at Loch Slapin in the south. As we near the end of the hike, we get our first real views of the Black Cuillin. The mountain of Bla Bheinn viewed across Loch Slapin is one of the best views on Skye, if not Scotland. The hike ends on the shores of Loch Slapin, our mini coast to coast hike completed. After refreshments in a local Tea Room, we transfer south to Perthshire and settle into our hotel. (5-6 miles hiking, 3-4 hours)
Fonab Hotel (B,L,D)
Enjoy a free morning to explore Pitlochry. Arrive in Edinburgh in the late afternoon and transfer to the city center or to the airport for your flight home.
National Geographic Active Expeditions are unique, active itineraries for intrepid travelers that combine spectacular places, cultural interaction, and physical challenge. You'll explore fascinating, off-the-beaten-path places with top guides, and wherever possible, meet National Geographic experts in the field.
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Prices are per person, double occupancy. For a single room add $900 in 2018 and $1,300 in 2019. Airfare to/from Edinburgh is not included in the expedition cost.
GROUP SIZE: 8–16
See special terms and conditions for this expedition.
We will be hiking 3 to 5 hours per day (2 to 7 miles) on moderate to steep grades at low elevations. During hikes, vehicle support is provided at various points while in the highlands, but will be limited while on the islands.
Click here for a description of all activity levels.
We will stay 7 nights in hotels and smaller inns offering authentic Scottish hospitality.
Please note that there are some long travel days. Transfer is by private vans along roads in good condition.
Call to speak with an adventure specialist about this trip.